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Confusion caused death of High Wycombe man
2:30pm Sunday 20th January 2013 in News
A MAN died from an overdose of medication after becoming confused about the amount he was prescribed to take, an inquest heard.
The body of Ralph Searle was discovered at his Temple End home in High Wycombe at about 8pm on May 29 by Charles Bell.
Mr Bell had been talking to his friend of 37 years on the phone when Mr Searle went silent. He raced to Mr Searle’s house but he had died.
The cause of death was Oxycodone, Ethanol and diazepam toxicity, an inquest at Beaconsfield Coroner’s Court was told on Wednesday.
The 54-year-old had undergone a procedure to remove a kidney on May 23 and had been discharged from hospital on May 26 with two 250ml bottles of Oxycodone.
Mr Searle - who had a history of epilepsy and alcohol dependency - was told to take a 10ml dose of the morphine-based painkiller twice a day.
But Mr Bell told the inquest he noticed one of the bottles was already “three-quarters empty” a day after his friend’s release from hospital.
He added Mr Searle had been taking a full cap’s worth of the medicine - approximately 40ml - and had marked a line on the cap to help him measure out the correct dosage.
Mr Bell and Mr Searle’s family said they thought the discharge letter - which mentions instructions for both Oxycodone and Oxynorm drugs - issued by the hospital was confusing, which led to Mr Searle’s struggles.
But doctors told the court that the two were effectively the same, correct drugs and the prescription and instructions for use were normal.
The family said in the eight weeks prior to the operation that Mr Searle had been increasingly confused. He had also suffered three epileptic seizers during that time which doctors said could have caused this.
Mr Searle’s popped in to see his GP Dr Edward Bray on the morning of his death. He said Mr Searle did not appear confused but was acting “a bit slow”, but Dr Bray put this down to effects of the kidney surgery.
Recording a verdict of misadventure, the Buckinghamshire Coroner Richard Hulett said he suspected Mr Searle was displaying the early signs of dementia and took his medication in a “muddled state”.
He said: “He didn’t do it deliberately he has done it in a muddled state. Whether anyone could or should have picked up on it before hand is beyond my jurisdiction.
“Most people found him a rational person, his GP said he enjoyed their conversations during their consultations.
“I have a suspicion the early stages of dementia were setting in here. I struggled [to get to grips with the discharge sheet] myself but I don’t think any of this directly contributed towards his death.
“He dies because he has a degree of confusion and he’s taking too much of this medicine with a[n alcoholic] drink or two as he goes along.”